In addition to historical material gathered by our Editor, The Kentucky Explorer is a unique magazine in that many of our articles and stories are submitted by readers, just like you. "Budding" authors have had their first stories published here at absolutely no charge, but the good news is that you don't have to be a professional writer to contribute.
There are a few basic guidelines and requirements, but they are rather simple:
(1) The material must be original and non-copyrighted;
(2) It must have a general interest to all Kentuckians;
(3) All stories and articles should be factual. Don't worry about spelling or grammar. We'll take care of that;
(4) Your stories should be accompanied by appropriate photographs and/or illustrations. Since the backlog of material is generally quite large, stories with the best photos and illustrations stand a better chance of being published; and
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The Kentucky Explorer prides itself in the quality of articles and stories found in our magazine each month. The pages of the May 2001 issue has 22 of them, all interesting and unique. We invite you to view the "Table of Contents" this month, if you haven't already done so.
Here is a story (complete with photos) found in our September 2001 issue:
From The Coal Fields To The Gold Fields
Floyd County Businessman And Baptist Minister Now A Multi-Millionaire
Somerset Tent Meeting, Summer 2000. Rev. Russell Anderson delivers the Divine message. Accompanying him on the podium are (l-r): Kelly Hendren (soundman), Rev. Jeff Fugate, Rev. Grant Hardwick, and Mark Heff.
Russell Anderson, better known as Brother Anderson in Christian circles and "Cotton" from his classmates, because of his headful of white hair, came from Floyd County, in the Eastern Kentucky mountains. Being reared in a poverty-stricken area, he learned to work hard to get by. At the age of 24 he left the coal mines and moved to Michigan. There he continued doing what he learned in Kentucky: working hard, and as he says, applying the only thing he did good at in school, adding and multiplying. He didn't much care for subtracting and dividing. Today, he is a Christian businessman and a Baptist preacher, who has become a multimillionaire. The thing that makes Russell Anderson different from other multi-millionaires is the way he uses his wealth to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Since becoming a Christian, his goal and desire is to tell as many as he can the story he waited so long to hear: how Jesus came to save a sinner like him.
He had very humble beginnings. He was born in 1931, in Hunter, Kentucky. His parents were Clovia A. and Ralph L. Anderson. He had two brothers and two sisters. During high school his family moved to McDowell. His father was a superintendent in the coal mines and is remembered as having a respectable family. They lived in a rented shotgun house in Caswell Hollow two miles outside of McDowell, without electricity or a toilet. As he tells it, "We had three rooms and a path!" On two separate occasions they had house fires and lost everything they had. Russell remembers waking up and the ceiling being on fire. As a boy he looked at people who lived in painted houses and thought they must be rich.
The Anderson Children of Floyd County, 1935. (L-R): Ralph, Jr.; Russell; and Helen Ruth Anderson with the family dogs.
Most people in McDowell were poor, but, as they tell it, they didn't realize it! No one had much. This was a time when families learned to work. City water was unheard of. The kids laughed when they heard some people paid for water! Even though their clothes might have been bare, the Anderson family was clean and neat. Life was difficult. If you needed fuel you went along the train track and picked up the coal that fell off the rail cars, or dug it out of the hill in the backyard. No one bought coal; it was everywhere!
His family didn't have a car until he was a sophomore in high school, so Russell would sometimes catch a ride with a neighbor driving by. Some felt sorry for him, because his pants had holes in the knees, and his family was poorer than most. Others made fun of him. Regardless of his circumstances, most liked him. They knew he was honest, conscientious, and a hard worker.
McDowell was a small, close-knit, coal mining community where everyone knew each other. The miners would walk to the small mines before daylight and would come home after dark. The people who lived near the road claimed they could tell who was walking by from a cough or a few words spoken. It wasn't uncommon to just walk up to someone's window and just start talking through it. Front doors weren't locked, and people left their keys in their cars.
This was an era when kids made their own entertainment. They would build bonfires and sing, cruise around, and even serenade each other. People would ride their horses to the local theater, but more than one theater would share the reel on the same night, so it wasn't uncommon to have to wait for the reel to arrive in order to begin. Pay 40 cents and you were ready to go. There wasn't any candy bars or pop, but there was the traditional popcorn! You had to bring your own tomato juice or drink.
Even as a first grader, Russell already had much of the spunk he carried into his older years. Some of the female classmates complained of how he would trip them, throw snowballs at them, pick them up and carry them, and pull numerous pranks. Parents would send notes to the principal, and Russell would get spanked. He was said to be a bit mischievous as a youngster.
Unlike the homes, there were bathrooms in the schools. Most kids walked to school, but if you did get to ride the bus it didn't stop in front of your house; you just bailed out. When students went on a ball trip on a bus, the guys sometimes would have to push the bus up the hill in snow. On one particular ball trip Russell was on, the bus was sideswiped and turned over, landing on the exit door. Russell was near the front of the bus and with both feet kicked out the windshield, as a way out. Then, Bobby Turner, who was in the rear of the bus, kicked the emergency door open. To those on the bus his reaction seemed heroic.
Mother & Sons, Floyd County, 1936. Clovia A. Anderson with sons Ralph, Jr. (left) and Russell at the family farm.
By the lists and pictures in the school yearbook, you can tell Russell was very active for a young boy. He was involved in many clubs, as well as being on the basketball team his sophomore and junior years. He would work in the coal mine on Saturdays, but he would return to school in time to play ball. He missed a lot of ball practices, because he worked. This kept him from being first string. He was a guard and, in spite of his short height, he was a great ball handler. Some of his teammates felt had he not had to miss so many practices because of working, he could have been captain of the team. He hurt his back in the coal mine and was unable to play ball as a senior. He became the team manager that year. McDowell High may not have been a powerhouse team, but win or lose, the principal always insisted on good sportsmanship.
By the eighth grade Russell had a bank account. He was very careful with his money. As a junior he bought a car for around $70. When he realized it was costing him $3 a week to run it, he sold it!
His classmates agree he got along well with the group. He would go visit some of his friends at their home on occasion. It's been said his best friend was the school principal, George L. Moore. Mr. Moore took him under his wing. Today, Russell gives credit to the dedicated teachers he had in school. Although he wasn't very book-minded, his parents would help him with his schoolwork. He attended McDowell High School, and somehow this young boy managed to finish high school. His dad bought him a suit for the graduation. He was one of the five boys of the 24 graduates in 1950; 19 were girls. Most of the boys had already dropped out and were working full-time. This was the generation that began leaving the coal mining community and went on to bigger cities to get jobs or go to college. When asked how he managed to finish high school, he said, "My dad made me."
As a young boy he got his first job working in the cornfields for 50¢ a day. At the age of nine he wheeled sawdust for the sawmills, then there were the cornfields that needed plowing. His family sharecropped 100 acres, so when he was 11 or so he plowed fields with a mule. He sold green beans and corn for $2 a sack. At the age of 14 he was hauling supplies on a mule for the coal mines for $2 a day. At one point he managed a small restaurant, so the couple could go on vacation. He had a reputation of being reliable, trustworthy, and on time.
Around the age of 15 he picked up trapping muskrats and minks. Muskrats were easier to trap, because they followed a set routine and left a path to the water. He had to get the muskrat from the trap before daylight, so he would get up at 5:00 a.m. and empty his traps. He would lay them on the hearth until he returned home from school, then he would stretch their hides. In the fall he would mail them to Sears and Roebuck and Montgomery Wards for $1.50 to $4 a hide. No doubt about it, he was a hard worker, even as a youth, and was already showing signs of starting his own enterprise.
There was plenty of work to do at home, too. He had to get the wood for the cookstove, the coal for the fire, and tend to the animals. During his junior and senior years he begged his dad to let him work in the mines on Saturday. He would walk two miles there and two miles back. He also worked in the sawmills. After high school he went to work in the mines full-time. He became the number one coal loader at Edgemont and was making $31 a day. He would load 30 to 35 tons of coal a day. One man told him he was going to load more coal that month than Russell. Russell worked two days work in one day, for several days, in order to remain the number one loader.
Wedding Day, 1958. A handsome couple, indeed, Russell and Maxine Anderson are seen here on their wedding day in Ipsilanti, Michigan.
Although he was small, he was wiry and had a lot of spunk; full of vigor, as some put it. Russell didn't necessarily go around starting fights, but he wasn't one to back away from them either. Everyone knew if you messed with him, he would take them on. This led to many brawls in his early 20s. Even in his messages he preaches, he'll mention the fighting and drinking of his years before he knew Christ.
His parents didn't go to church, so he didn't get to either. Missionaries would come to school and tell Bible stories occasionally. Although he worked in the mines with ministers, they didn't talk about God. He didn't know much about God, who would later use him to start hundreds of churches and lead thousands of souls to Christ.
After graduation Nella Rose Caudill recalls how she and another girl were going to businesses and collecting money for foreign missions. When they got out at a gas station several guys began making fun of her and her friend. Russell walked over, in a pair of dress pants and a white shirt, and told those guys to leave them alone, that they were doing a good thing. He reached into his pocket and pulled out 72¢. "This is all I have. I would give more if had it," he said. As they were leaving she told the girl with her that God would bless him for that and give him the 72¢ back. She knew he had to work hard for the money and that it was a sacrifice for him. God has given it all back and much more!
He worked in the mines for six years, including the summers. Although he liked the mines, it wasn't dependable work, because they would sometimes shut down for weeks at a time. A person just couldn't keep up, much less get ahead. So in 1955, when some friends were going to Michigan to do some construction work, Russell went with them. There he learned to drywall. Two years later, he started his own drywalling business. During this time there was a great demand for housing in Michigan. He decided to build ten apartments, and they were rented before he had them completed. Soon he had built 60 apartments.
Growing up in poverty left scars in Russell's life. As a young man he set a goal that as long as work was available, his kids would grow up and have a better home. So he decided to learn all he could to provide better for his family.
In 1958 he met a lovely Christian lady from Middlesboro, Kentucky. He says he took one bite of her fried chicken and told her to name the date. Ninety days after they met he married Maxine Ramsey. It paid off being a good cook! They have three daughters; two married preachers, and one is a lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia.
Russell would work hard all week, and then on Sunday his pretty wife would get up and go to church. He would fuss and tell her not to go. "I've worked hard all week, the least you could do is stay home an cook my dinner on Sunday." She would continue to walk to church. As he tells it, he got tired of waiting to eat, so he would take her to church and wait for her to come out, then he drove her home so he could have his dinner sooner. He would look at his watch and often 12:15 p.m. and later would go by before she walked out of the church. He would fume, "Doesn't that preacher know what time church is suppose to be over? I have men working for me, and I don't have to tell them it's quitting time!"
Finally, Russell started to go to church. In Sunday School he learned that joining a certain church and being baptized wouldn't get him to Heaven. For the first time he heard a clear presentation of the Gospel, and how Jesus paid his sin debt and that he who believeth on the Son hath everlasting life. He came under conviction, and for the next seven or eight months he tried to clean up his life and help God save him. On September 13, 1959, he left the church after the services, but couldn't take it any longer. He came back and told the preacher he wanted to get saved. So, at the age of 28, he placed his complete trust in Jesus, the one who paid the debt for all sins!
As soon as he gave his life to Christ he got a heavy burden for his mother and family. At nights he would bury his knees in the sand and pray. Within a few weeks his mother and 11 family members trusted Christ as Savior. Today, every immediate family member has.
Brother Russell "Cotton" Anderson. Another photo of Rev. Anderson preaching at the Somerset Tent Meeting in the summer of 2000.
In 1960 a builder that he was working for went bankrupt and did not pay him $27,000. He was only worth $23,000. Now he was broke and in debt. During this time Russell did not quit tithing. He couldn't always take a paycheck, but he never missed tithing or paying a bill. As he says it, "I missed some paydays, but God never missed one from me." He was determined to put God first and refused to miss church.
Miraculously, in a little over seven years, he became a millionaire at the age of 38. He began giving 30% of his income to the Lord's work in appreciation for what God had done for him. In only a few years he became a multimillionaire. By 1970 he was giving 50% of everything he earned to the Lord's work.
In 1972 he co-founded Hyles-Anderson College with Dr. Jack Hyles. It is now the largest fundamental Baptist college in America. Eight colleges have now been started in America, Mexico, Haiti, and the Philippines with his help. He co-founded Commonwealth Baptist College in Lexington, Kentucky, and gave $1,000,000 to build the college. He wants to do all he can to help Kentucky have a training post for Christians to go out an evangelize the world.
In 1999 he gave 50¢ of every dollar he made to the Lord's work That year alone he gave $11.2 million. He plans to give it all back to the Lord. As he puts it, he's sending it in front of him. He has financed the building of more than 300 churches throughout the world.
He made a promise in 1999 that with God's help he would help to see over 1,000,000 souls come to Christ in the next seven years. He is paying men around the world to win souls full-time. Already over 700,000 have accepted Christ as their Savior, and it is projected that by the end of 2001 that over 1,000,000 will. Because of his great commitment God is blessing him, and it looks like there could be twice as many souls accepting Jesus as he prayed for.
Kentucky is where his roots are, and it brings him joy to come home. When he talks you can hear the passion he has for Kentucky. He initiated the McDowell class reunion. It was the first reunion for the classes of 1949, 1950, and 1951. He reunited classmates of 50 years ago. He wanted everyone to come, but wanted to bear the expense himself. After taking the advice of the others helping him, he agreed to request a $25 deposit, feeling if people had something invested they would not cancel out.
It began on Friday and went until Sunday afternoon. As he had hoped, it was a huge turnout. The reunion was hosted at the Jenny Wiley State Park. It was a grand event, complete with live fish in fishbowls in the school colors for table settings. They visited the old high school, which is no longer being used. Russell made a presentation at the reunion for $7,000 to automate the library in the new school, Left Beaver High School, in honor of his former principal, George L. Moore.
On Sunday morning they all gathered for church, and Russell delivered the message. After the reunion the $25 deposit was returned, and no one was expecting it! It was gratifying to get to give back to those he went to school with. "He is an admirable person, an example of someone who has made it on his own," says Helen Turner.
For the past two summers he has traveled across the state of Kentucky with Pastor Jeff Fugate, pastor of Clay's Mill Road Baptist Church of Lexington, preaching nightly in tent meetings. Some weeks he preaches as many as ten times. During this time he lives out of his RV, and during the day he goes door-to-door and talks with people about the Lord. Tent meetings are just what it sounds like: preaching services held outside without air conditioning, but there are fans. Russell counts it a privilege and an honor to get to travel across the state he loves and give to others the message that changed his life. He is full of interesting tales of his personal experiences. Normally, Russell preaches first, and afterward there are a couple of songs. Pastor Fugate then preaches and gives an invitation.
On one particular night, as Russell was preaching in Lexington, the Holy Spirit felt so powerful during his message that, instead of preaching, Bro. Fugate gave an invitation. The pastor extended a challenge to go out and witness for the rest of the evening.
Many took to the streets and spoke with those walking by. Some went to witness to lost loved ones. As a result 32 souls were saved. He speaks in other services and challenges people to win 50, 30, 20 or even 10 souls in seven weeks. Many have accepted and met the challenge. His personal example is a challenge to those around him.
Russell's wife still plants a garden and cans the vegetables. They are very conservative people. They don't waste what God has given to them. Russell has driven to Wal Mart to get a Coke from the machine rather than buy one at a restaurant. They are more than generous in providing for the Lord's work though. When he speaks in churches he often hosts a banquet for those who attend. He calls it "a millionaire's dinner," which includes meat, vegetables, soup beans and cornbread (his favorite), and dessert.
Russell celebrated his 70th birthday on May 16, 2001. With several enterprises going, he puts in 12 to 14 hours a day. Retirement isn't on his agenda. He rises around 3:00 or 4:00 each morning without the help of an alarm clock. In the wee hours of the morning he gets alone with God. Several hours in prayer and Bible study are spent before he begins his day. He reminds God that everything he owns is His and asks for the Lord to show him what to do with all God has entrusted into his hands.
In an interview, Russell said, "Poverty is a blessing in disguise; it teaches survival." It is evident by his life that his true wealth is his eternal salvation. He is laying up treasures in Heaven. His crown will be the souls won here on this earth. "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out." (1 Timothy 6:7)
We hope you enjoyed reading about God's miracle millionaire, a man who truly went from rags to riches!
Renee Head, Clay's Mill Road Baptist Church, 3000 Clay's Mill Road, Lexington, KY 40503, shares this story and photos with our readers.
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